December 21, 2017 0 By STANDARD TIMESPRESS

 An EU audit report has praised the Environment Protection AgencySierra Leone (EPA-SL) for what it describes as the Agency’s exemplary leadership role in the area of “transparency, honesty, dedication and compliance”. These observations were made in an evaluation report that was done by experts from the EU.

 In July 2011, the Government of Sierra Leone and the EU signed an agreement for the implementation of the Environmental Governance and Mainstreaming Project (EGMP) which was a four yearsector development project funded by the EU. The main objective of the project was to improve on environmental governance, reduce poverty, and facilitate the implementation of environmental and climate change policies in Sierra Leone. The project was also geared towards improving the effective establishment and functioning of the Agency.

Madam Jattou Jallow, Executive Chairperson, Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone

 In August 2017, following the successful conclusion of the project, an EU team of Experts was received by the EPA-SL to carry out an independent evaluation of the implementation and outcome of the EGMP. At the conclusion of the evaluation exercise, the EU team submitted their report which, among other things, praised the Environment Protection Agency for its diligence, professionalism, and honesty with which it executed the project.

 The Report noted that:

 “With respect to the good governance issue it has to be acknowledged that the management of EPA has openly and consistently strived for good governance and transparency, promoting as key principles of the EPA integrity, transparency, honesty and responsibility. As a matter of fact, the financial management of the overall project by NAO, was commended by the EU and the same applied for the financial management of the OPE1 and OPE2, administered by EPA. The two financial audits performed by Ernst & Young of the two programme estimates did not find any irregularities in relationto the project’s expenses..”

 It is important to note that the EPA-SL’s financial accounts are subject to both national and international audit, and that, EPA-SLhad had an unqualified audit due to sound financial management within the Agency, and will continue to maintain high performance in all its undertakings.

 The Evaluation Team also found the EPA to be “more proactive and successful in monitoring and law enforcement than other MDAs” within the framework of environmental governance in Sierra Leone. The report went on to state that the EPA-SL provided an opportunity for female young graduates to pursue internships in the Agency to enable them acquire the requisite experience in environmental management issues.

 With respect to the execution of the EPA-SL mandate, the EU report noted that:

 “people automatically point to EPA for a solution, although the issue may not be within the direct mandate of EPA, but a responsibility of another MDA (e.g. MAFFS, MLCPE, NPAA). Secondly, some environmental issues are not picked up by the responsible MDA (although it should), but the EPA deems it important that the issue will be addressed. In both cases the roles and mandates of all MDAs should be further clarified, and respective MDAs should fulfill their public function and responsibilities. It will be impossible for EPA to respond to all environmental issues that are not within their main responsibility (and besides that it would also eat up EPA resources…”

 Furthermore, the report applauded the efforts of the Government for its strong commitment to environmental governance and for taking the right step in establishing the EPA-SL, and also for providing the conducive atmosphere to enable the Agency carry out its work effectively.

 The report recommended, among others, that:

 a.       The EPA-SL should be empowered to carry out demolitions of settlements that are in conflict with environmental laws;

b.      The EPA-SL should be empowered to confiscate equipment and/or destroy equipment such aschainsaws, bulldozers and wash plants used in activities that contraveneenvironmental law.

c.       EPA should have the authority to sue those MDAs that do not implement upfront environmental compliance checks before issuing permits to their clients;

d.      The need for a strong law enforcement mechanism like a “Rapid Response Team” that iswell trained and equippedto be accompanied by police officers.

 This report re-echoes government’s appeal that institutions must work in collaboration with one another to achieve better results. The need for collaboration is by no means of a lesser degree when it comes to environmental governance, which is crosscutting..